We're all about helping you to save time and money but get awesome results. One of the ways you can do that is by using the right supplements. It's just as essential as having the right gym gear.
Creatine has been one of the hottest supplements on the market for years now for people who want to improve their exercise performance and increase muscle mass. Selecting the right one, though, can be a challenging process - especially when there are thousands of products to choose from. In this article, I hope to help you to choose the best creatine supplement possible, as well as properly informing you of the benefits of creatine.
Creatine, scientifically speaking, is a natural compound found in muscle cells and brain nerves. Its main role is to supply and facilitate energy for muscular contraction. In other words, it helps your muscles produce sufficient amounts of energy during heavy lifting or intense workouts. This aids in your performance, allowing you to endure more strenuous activities.
Creatine is primarily found in meat, eggs, and fish, but can also have traces in nuts and grains. Several factors determine your body's natural production of creatine, such as exercise, amount of muscle mass, as well as levels of hormones like testosterone and IGF-1. Knowing this, about 95% of your body's creatine is stored in the muscles; the other 5% is stored in the brain and liver (9).
When creatine is supplemented, your levels of storage are increased, thus increasing your body's ATP (I'll discuss more about this molecule below).
Let's take a look at an overview of what creatine is:
Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP for short, is the most basic molecule of cellular energy. It stores, uses, and recycles energy, allowing your body to complete rigorous tasks within a limit. View ATP as a gas tank; the bigger the tank, the longer the distance. The more ATP your cells can store, the more work your body can do.
As mentioned above, creatine boosts your body's ATP reservoir. It does this by accelerating adenosine disphosphate (ADP), a little sibling of ATP. To simplify, creatine shares a molecule to ADP that allows for it to be rapidly converted into ATP (2).
Not only does creatine expand your body's energy storage but it also increases the speed at which ATP is replenished. This allows you to lift longer and recover faster, enabling you to put on muscle quicker. You'll definitely be able to squeeze out a few more pull ups.
Creatine also helps you gain muscle in other ways, including:
Here's an even more in-depth explanation of how exactly creatine helps you to build muscle and improve your performance at the gym:
Now that you know the purpose behind creatine, which formula is the right one for you? Below I'll be providing some key insights into choosing the right product, attributes to look for, and the best way to use creatine.
There are a variety of creatine formulas available on the market, but creatine monohydrate is the most studied of them of all. Other forms of creatine include liquid creatine, buffered creatine, creatine nitrate, citrate creatine, and hydrochloride creatine. All of these forms have been mildly studied and do not boast the same effects of monohydrate creatine.
Creatine Monohydrate - increases your body's muscle mass, increases muscle growth, and allows more power bursts. It has been studied profusely, boasting over 200 scientific studies over the last 20 years.
Creatine Citric - created by binding with citric acid; no unique features when compared to monohydrate
Creatine Hydrochloride - form of creatine bound with hydrochloric acid; has been shown increase muscle cell volume, promoting an anabolic environment for increase muscle size, but has also been noted to cause abnormalities within the body. Be cautious when trying this creatine out./
Liquid Creatine - created by suspending a form of creatine in a solution such as water and the amino acid glycine; research shows that liquid creatine has no unique features
Buffered Creatine - form of creatine monohydrate with a higher pH level, claiming to be perform better than creatine monohydrate; no research backs this claim up
Creatine Ethyl Ester - ester is attached to creatine, allowing it to pass through cell membranes much easier; shows to be less effective than creatine monohydrate
If you're ready for a deep dive into looking more into creatine and the science behind it from a medical point of view, let's take a look at this video:
After much research, I've found that creatine monohydrate is less expensive, well tolerated, and most importantly, there is no doubt about its effectiveness. It's been the main creatine of study for decades; the research says it all.
When searching for a creatine supplement you want to look for both quality and affordability. As mentioned above, the variety of creatine does not affect the overall outcome of your workout, meaning the most affordable creatine (monohydrate) still has the same effect as the most expensive creatine.
Additionally, you'll want a brand that is notable. In other words, make sure what you're buying has a great reputation regarding their products. Just like buying any kind of home gym equipment, a quality brand goes a long way.
Finally, the price tag does matter. I've used the most expensive creatine there is ($120 for 60 servings!) to the cheapest of creatine, and they both offer the same basics, but with unique features. I would recommned staying within the mid-price range when buying creatine products, $30-$70.
Supplementing with about five grams of creatine a day is shown to be effective, but there are options for one looking to see further improvement.
Loading is a viable tactic if you're just starting out. Rapid loading or slow loading are both effective routes.
Rapid Loading: take 20 grams of creatine for 5 to 7 days, then take 5 to 10 grams per day thereafter.
Slow Loading: take 5 to 10 grams of creatine a day without the rapid loading, 20 grams per day phase. It's much more gradual but may be a better choice for some individuals.
Here's some more in-depth info on the best ways to use creatine for muscle growth:
So, overall, slow loading may be an ideal choice for individuals who were previously using creatine and are just now getting back into the grind. It may also be helpful to individuals ensuring that they are not overdosing on creatine, which could result in kidney, liver, and stomach damage.
Be cautious when loading. Experiment with your body and see how creatine affects your body. Try to keep the loading phase in cycles, such as a 4-week cycle or 9-week cycle:
Example 4 week cycle:
Example 9 week cycle:
When searching for a creatine supplement you want to look for both quality and affordability. As mentioned above, the variety of creatine does not affect the overall outcome of your workout, meaning the most affordable creatine (monohydrate) still has the same effect as the most expensive creatine. Additionally, you'll want a brand that is notable. In other words, make sure what you're buying has a great reputation regarding their products.
I'll be listing five top-quality creatine brands you should consider purchasing if creatine seems like a fit for you.
A good example of a solid monohydrate powder is Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate Powder. The intriguing thing about this supplement is the dual formula that is used. Although the base ingredient is monohydrate, it’s micronized, allowing you to easily mix it as well as permitting it to stay in the solution longer than non-micronized powders.
This product contains about 114 servings, making it sufficient for long-term users. On top of that, there is no added sugar and zero calories. 99.9% Pure Creapure® Brand Creatine is the main ingredient here, which is a formulated monohydrate that boosts the effects of the average creatine monohydrate. This reliable, trusted, and quality brand is one of my favorites due to the affordability and efficiency it offers. If you're in the market for a quality yet affordable supplement, this might be the best creatine for you.
Similar to the product above, BulkSupplements offers a few more perks along with a credited customer-base. With over 10,000 4.5 star reviews, it’s a no-brainer that this creatine powder has a ton of value.
BulkSupplements purchased their own lab and perfected their creatine formula. The average increase in weightlifting performance was 14% higher than placebo, according to a widely published research paper. It is ideally used as a pre/post workout, which enables more output at the gym.
It's also vegan-friendly, only using ingredients found within plants, making it sugar, soy, and gluten-free as well. This might be the best creatine on the market though keep in mind that different people may respond to certain creatine supplements in different ways.
This MuscleTech Creatine is perhaps the best creatine monohydrate you can buy in regards to supreme quality. Unlike the others on this list, this creatine offers 100% ultra-pure creatine, making it the most absolute form of creatine you can use on the planet.
100% Creatine provides your muscles with the most clinically-researched form of micronized creatine available. It supports muscle size, enhances strength, and improves exercise recovery. In a controlled study, there was a 143% increase in muscle performance compared to the placebo. Also, in a separate study, test subjects increased their bench press strength by 18.6% in just 10 days. If I found this formula before incorporating creatine into my diet, I would have chosen this brand due to its effectiveness.
The BSN Micronized Creatine Monohydrate Powder offers some unique traits not found in others listed here. For one, this creatine powder has 100% monohydrate, featuring a DNA pure-tested powder. This allows you to mix this supplement with virtually anything.
This creatine also provides 5 grams of pure, micronized creatine monohydrate, which supports strength, power, and lean body mass without any fillers or additives. The brand behind this creatine is well-renowned as well. Bio-Engineered Supplements and Nutrition, Inc. (BSN) strives to create and formulate the best of the best. Backed by cutting-edge nutritional science, all of their products are soundly tested, which is why BSN has one of the largest loyal-consumer markets available worldwide.
One of the best creatine supplements is MP Essentials Micronized Creatine Powder. This is probably the most creatine backed by the most science out of all of the creatine supplements talked about here. It is the most complex and studied brand on the market, showcasing a pharmacy-grade formula.
MP Essentials promotes strength, power, and endurance while restoring muscular energy levels. There is virtually no loading required when using this supplement due to the potency it offers. Once taken, the body rapidly absorbs the creatine complex by matching with DNA sequences in your body. This creatine is truly fascinating, and I would recommend it to anyone with a vast interest in scientifically-studied performance.
Overall, all of the products above are notable and worthy candidates. After much thought and consideration, the Creatine Monohydrate Powder Micronized by BulkSupplements is the clear winner in this roundup.
Of course, all other creatine supplements mentioned here are viable, but the most universal and affordable pick is the creatine by BulkSupplements. It offers studied results as well as proven participants. It has generally got a lot of positive feedback from customers. All of these factors make this product the best choice all around.
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